Wednesday, December 06, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Farm animals emit 20% of greenhouse gases

It is often implicitly assumed or even explicitly said that the emissions of the greenhouse gases are caused almost exclusively by industry, traffic, and other artificial machines and devices. Well, that's not true because the greenhouse gases are also important products of processes that we call life. According to a new U.N. report, farm animals - mostly cows and sheep - account for

  • 9 percent of carbon dioxide
  • 40 percent of methane
  • 65 percent of nitrous oxide
  • ...
  • 20 percent of the overall induced greenhouse effect.

In some countries such as New Zealand, this percentage is not 20 percent but around 33 percent. Also, the U.N. predicts that the meat production will double by 2050. In these technical matters, you may want to remember that the gases are emitted by the mouth of the cow, not the opposite side, because the fellow mammal has four stomachs. ;-)

The cow population may grow but doesn't have to grow. Those who call for downright reductions of greenhouse gas emissions effectively advocate a huge cattle holocaust - and indirectly, through the hunger of non-vegetarian humans, also a holocaust of men and women - and those who call for reductions in some sectors only are biased and unfair.

Instead of looking into the future, we can also organize our ideas about these matters by looking into the past. If there ever were a period in which the number or the total mass of large animals exceeded the current numbers five-fold, which is far from impossible because homo sapiens has removed quite a significant fraction of animals at many places, ordinary life in such a period generated more greenhouse gases than all of the current civilization.

According to everything we know, it is rather unlikely that the recent warming is unprecedented. But one of the outcomes of the recent report is that even the rates of greenhouse gas emissions in the recent era are probably far from being unprecedented in the history of the Earth at longer timescales.

If you want a comparison of agriculture and free life with other sectors: aviation in regions like Europe is responsible for 2 percent of carbon emissions only - one order of magnitude below the cattle and sheep - which is why the Ryanair boss's appraisal of the global warming warriors is so accurate.

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snail feedback (2) :

reader Anonymous said...

dude.. I think the way you framed this blog is misleading.
I read the article in

Indeed that article just tends to support vegetarianism in the first place.

Global warming is a phenomenon which has a bigger scope than that article. It is happening. I cannot agree the way it is depicted in the movies neither I want to live a complete denial like the neoconservatives of the right.

reader Robert H said...

I submit that as a scientist myself, and as the father of a scientist (which makes me stay current on the science, since she is a specialist on speciation as a response to environmental change), climate change as a response to human living patterns is real. The fact that factory farms make it worse was already well established before the U.N. looked at the situation. It is too late to avoid a massive die-off of the human race, as well as the elimination of other species.
Secondly, the use of pasture raising for cattle, pigs and chickens produces only 40% as much methane. Not that it matters; our economic structures are collapsing, we passed peak oil production in 2006 (IEA report this year) and we are running out of water in a great deal of the world. So do what you can on a local basis to form and maintain an adaptable community, and hope you get lucky. The odds are about 7 to one agaist any human, and rather worse than that for the poor.